Farm Progress

Hudson FFA takes part in a unique “tele-town hall” with new USDA secretary.

Darin Leach

June 7, 2017

4 Min Read
MEET THE SECRETARY: Members of the Hudson FFA chapter helped welcome Sonny Perdue as the 31st U.S. secretary of agriculture and interacted one-on-one with him during a recent virtual town-hall meeting.

Earlier this spring, FFA members from Hudson in northeast Iowa had a unique opportunity to help welcome Sonny Perdue as the 31st U.S. secretary of agriculture and ask him questions about his goals for USDA. Just five days into his tenure, Perdue held a town-hall style meeting with the National FFA Center in Indianapolis and five local FFA chapters from Colorado, Iowa, New Hampshire, Virginia and Wisconsin.

The event was held as a virtual meeting with students connecting to Purdue via Google Hangouts. Students from each chapter had the opportunity to interact one on one with the secretary, while he was visiting FFA students at C.S. Monroe Technology Center in Leesburg, Va.

“The students were very excited for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to learn from and, in some cases, even field questions to the head of USDA,” said Dennis Deppe, adviser of the 43-member Hudson FFA chapter. “Secretary Perdue encouraged the students to grow where they are planted, and FFA and agricultural education certainly are conduits to helping our youth do just that.”

Deppe is just the fifth adviser for the Hudson FFA chapter since it was established 85 years ago. “The longevity of our ag teachers in Hudson speaks volumes to the support, involvement and strong backing of our community,” Deppe said. “Residents, organizations and businesses in Hudson and the surrounding areas value our program and want to see even better opportunities for the next generation.”

Questions from students
Hudson FFA President Maria Geisler introduced the chapter to Perdue and asked a question about needed infrastructure improvements across the nation’s major waterways, so products such as corn and soybeans can be efficiently moved from the Midwest to customers across the world.

“Our logistics system of rail, road, waterways and ports are very important to our agricultural industry,” Purdue said. “The president has proposed a significant infrastructure program that will aid in addressing some of those needed improvements, and will ultimately play a key role in helping increase important trade opportunities around the world.”


GOOD QUESTIONS: Hudson High School freshman Kacie Herring asked the secretary about ways USDA is working to reduce food insecurity issues in the United States.

Kacie Herring, a freshman at Hudson High School, asked the secretary about ways USDA is working to reduce food insecurity issues in the country, so as many Americans as possible have access to an ample supply of healthy and fresh foods.

“We have taken great steps as a nation to address these issues with our food supply that is the most abundant, safest and most affordable of anywhere in the world,” Purdue said. “This all starts with the productive capacity of our farmers and ranchers, but would not be possible without all of those involved in the entire food industry.” 

An outstanding FFA chapter
Leaders at the National FFA Organization nominated the Hudson FFA Chapter to participate in this tele-town hall event because of the outstanding student leadership within the chapter and the large number of state and national awards members have received.

“FFA’s Career and Leadership Development Events provide students with the expertise and experience they will use in college and during their careers, which is why they are an important component of our program in Hudson, and something the students invest quite a bit of time with as they research, practice and prepare for competitions,” Deppe added. “Having students do well at state, and even qualify for national competitions, is an honor, but seeing the growth of students during the preparation is the greatest reward.”


DEEP ROOTS: The Hudson community strongly supports its FFA chapter. Dennis Deppe is just the fifth adviser for the Hudson FFA chapter since it was established in 1932, some 85 years ago.

Numerous banners are displayed throughout the classroom in Hudson for such categories as national marketing plan and ag communications for individual and team champions, as well as state public speaking and job interview champions, and many top awards at the Iowa State Fair FFA competitions.

Celebrating an anniversary
This year marks the 100th anniversary of Smith-Hughes Act, also known as the National Vocational Education Act, federal legislation adopted in 1917 to provide aid to states as they promoted and developed curriculum programs focused on agricultural and industry grades and home economics.

This act led to the creation of the Future Farmers of America in 1928. Today, the National FFA Organization includes more than 7,800 chapters across the country with nearly 650,000 members in grades seven through 12.

“While technologies used within the agricultural industry continue to change, so do the ways students can interact with each other, their teachers, industry leaders and, yes, even the U.S. secretary of agriculture,” noted Deppe. “There will always be new challenges and opportunities in agriculture, so it’s important for us to continually evolve to ensure that we are best preparing students to lead in the future.”

Leach is public information coordinator with USDA Rural Development in Iowa.


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